Boston loves its professional sports teams, yes.
But the city showed this week there is plenty of love to go around, as TD Garden, home of the Celtics and Bruins, welcomed 12 of the best tennis players in the world with open arms. The venue has been transformed to host the fourth iteration of the Laver Cup, a tennis tournament developed by 20-time Grand Slam champion Roger Federer.
“I think everyone sitting here knows how special it is to be in such a great arena with so much history and so much sporting greatness to come out of this building,” said Nick Kyrgios, one of the six players representing Team World.
The competition this year is without Federer, who is not participating as he recovers from knee surgery. Neither Rafael Nadal nor Novak Djokovic are playing, either.
The fans, however, still packed the house to watch Team World and Team Europe face off in the three-day event. Among those in attendance for Day 1 were Bruins right wing David Pastrnak and Patriots cornerback Stephon Gilmore.
The crowd has certainly made its presence known, often rooting for the underdog Team World.
During the morning session of Day 2 on Saturday, Kyrgios had a number of supporters for his match against third-ranked Stefanos Tsitsipas, with one donning a “Kyrgios vs. Everybody” T-shirt and another showing off a poster that read, “King Kyrgios.” Some even started a call and response with a popular chant heard at Australian sporting events.
“Aussie, Aussie, Aussie,” one man would bellow, before the rest would follow with, “Oi, Oi, Oi.”
The enthusiasm from fans was not enough to put Kyrgios, the lowest ranked player (95th) competing, over the edge. He dropped the first set and had plenty of opportunities to make things interesting in the second, even breaking out a shimmy when he successfully placed a drop shot to give him a break point late in the set.
Tsitsipas stayed poised, though, fending off all six break points and never losing his serve.
“I really felt the crowd was ready for me to take one of those break points,” Kyrgios said after the 3-6, 4-6 loss. “Having that momentum possibly into the 10-point breaker would have been amazing. I’m disappointed that I couldn’t come through to get some points on the board.”
In the second singles match of the day, fans were squarely behind John Isner up against Germany’s Alexander Zverev. When Isner closed out the second-set tiebreak on an ace, one of his 22, he pumped his fist as the crowd erupted, reaching a level that definitely would have topped out on the TD Garden noise meter.
Cheers for “Big John” — Isner is 6 feet 10 inches — persisted through the match’s final point. Isner, who had helped notch Team World’s lone point on Day 1 with a thrilling doubles win that wrapped up just past midnight Saturday morning, ultimately lost, 6-7 (5-7), 7-6 (8-6), 5-10.
“The atmosphere was very partisan for our team,” Isner said. “The crowd was awesome, for sure. Just wish I could have given them a little more to cheer for at the end.”
Team Europe dominated the evening session, as Russia’s Daniil Medvedev topped Canada’s Denis Shapovalov, 6-4, 6-0. Tsitsipas and Russia’s Andrey Rublev then took down Kyrgios and Isner, 6-7 (8-10), 6-3, 10-4.
Even though Team World trails, 1-11, heading into Day 3, the lopsided score does not reflect the closeness or intensity of the competition. Five of the first eight matches have required a 10-point super tiebreaker to decide the winner.
Fans seem to be eating up one of the rare opportunities to watch high-level, professional tennis in Boston.
One fan even cosplayed as John McEnroe, captain of Team World. His getup — a red Davis Cup jacket along with a headband holding down a wig of dark curls — elicited a double thumbs up from McEnroe himself. Another came dressed as Bjorn Borg, captain of Team Europe, sporting a headband over long blond locks.
The loudest hooting and hollering occurred on Day 1, when the video board hanging over mid-court showed Federer, who still made the trip, watching from the stands. The standing ovation and cheers were reminiscent of those heard during a Celtics or Bruins playoff game. Federer was back for Day 2, this time taking in the action alongside 2003 US Open champion Andy Roddick, and again was warmly received.
“Everyone went nuts, like he deserves,” said Casper Ruud of Team Europe. “The crowd was going crazy and it gave me chills. You know, my hairs were raising on my arms.”
But Federer has not been the only one to feel love.
When Argentina’s Diego Schwartzman was locked in a tight matchup against Russia’s Andrey Rublev on Day 1, some carolled, “Olé, Olé, Olé, Olé, Diego, Diego,” a chant first used to cheer for the late Diego Maradona.
Young Canadian sensation Felix Auger Aliassime, fresh off a semifinals appearance at the US Open, garnered the loudest cheers during introductions. Shapovalov, a fellow Canadian, had fans yelling, “Shapo!” during his matches.
“This is a great way to give other players some attention,” Kyrgios said. “You look at when Felix gets announced in Boston, he’s incredibly loved. I think it gives fans who don’t usually see tennis [a chance] to start loving other players. I think, from an entertainment standpoint, it’s amazing.”
Nicole Yang can be reached at email@example.com.